Coming full circle...
Trip Start Apr 15, 2008
10Trip End May 17, 2008
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I spend a few days with friends up in Hawi, at the northern tip of the Big Island. They've created a beautiful family of adopted kids from all over the world and I finally have the opportunity to get to know each of them more personally than I ever have in the past. It's so cool to experience each one's uniqueness and to be a part of their daily routine. They're being schooled at home in a very creative environment and again, my thoughts on the structure and content of traditional education are challenged as I see them thrive in this alternative setting.
I head along the north coast of the island, on my way back to Hilo. I go through Lapahoehoe, a rugged rocky point that sticks out into the ocean... the northernmost point on the Big Island. It was hit by a tsunami in 1949....killed 24 people, mostly young students who were waiting for school to start. The story has it that the well-intentioned science teacher witnessed the first few larger waves and called the students out to measure the interval between waves of considerable magnitude....and as they were counting, the big waves sure enough came....and swept them off into the ocean. Hilo got wiped out in the same wave. And I believe it has been tsunami'd since then as well. This island has tsunami consciousness...there are warning sirens at all the low points along the shore....grand tsunamis are not the only concern...there are large random waves every once in a while they surprise people.
The north shore is beautiful...there are all types of terrain on this island. Assuming one recognizes 11 climatic regions in the world, 9 of them are represented right here on this singular island. Lots of variability. Snow on the highest parts of Mauna Kea, to the grasslands in the central region, to the tropics down below. If you drive twenty miles, you're probably in a different zone...you feel the air change entirely, the vegetation as well...
My days here in Hawaii are coming to an end. And there are still things on my to-do list. Not many, but some important ones...yet the main thing that calls me is the ocean. So after a day in Puna, I drive over to the Kona side to see if the dolphins are still there. But on the way, I decide to make a quick stop at Punalu'u to see if those monk seals showed up yet. I get to the beach and enjoy a delightful telephone conversation with an ex student who is now in his second year of college and happens to be spending a semester right here on the big island. For the past few days we have been trying to connect...but with the reception in and out and kind of minimal, we've kept missing each other. But finally I reach him on the phone and he's leaving tonight after four months here studying all sorts of interesting things...geology, soils, oceanography and coral reef health to name a few. Lots and lots of field work...and he's as thrilled with being here as I am...intending to come back within two years I totally share that sentiment...we'll see who gets here first.
It's great though to talk to someone who is really into what they're doing and has just had an amazing opportunity like this. He tells me that he once saw a pile of nine sea turtles in one place. That's a lot of sea turtle....but when I walk over to the water I see heads and backs popping up all over the place in the surf. I know I have to put on my mask and spend some time snorkeling right here. And right along the coastline I see more turtles than I've seen yet in one place. There's one every three feet or so...feeding and doing turtle ballet in the waves....the wave goes in, they do a handstand with their butt way up in the air, the only thing anchored is their mouth on food...the wave goes out, they're back on their belly. So I get to see them from all angles....my biggest concern is that a wave might carry me over to bump into them.... They really could care less that I'm there....they're absorbed in their own thing....I'm totally inconsequential to them.
So I swim along the coast seeing more and more sea turtles....my own body sways with the surf...its relaxing here in turtle world....but eventually I return to land and head to Na'ale'hu for a fish sandwich....I've never liked fish sandwiches before...but with the fresh fish out here, I've gotten hooked. In fact, all I've really eaten here is fish...lots of poke and now the fish sandwich thing.
Then it's off to Ho'okena, that sweet little cove that had the dolphins and a lot of good people. And I make it in, all set up, by rain time. I'm headed up the hill to get some poke for dinner but as I drive up the steep hill back to the main road, I'm driving thru a rain cloud that seems to be plastered right along the wall of the coast. I can't really see anything...these are some steep winding roads...but I think it would be just as difficult to turn around and go back down, so I go up, and when I get to the top, the rain disappears. Glad for that because it's still 10 miles to the poke store.
But after a very satisfying car dinner of fish, bread, tomatoes, and pudding, I head back to a nights sleep under rainy skies. I don't think it lets up for a second. And around 11:35 PM I've got a drip-drip-drip coming down on my left thigh....right thru the center of the roof. I adjust and then it's a drip to my cheek. I keep accommodating the drips until there's no where else to go. I see flashlights go on in other tents so I know everybody is dealing with leakiness. But it's not really cold out and my fleece blanket is warm even when it's wet, and thank the goddess for therma-rest pads that keep you afloat on any puddle in your tent. And I'm still feeling the rocking of the turtle surf so I actually get a good night's sleep. I wake up to a brilliant sunny morning and an opportunity for all of us to dry out piece by piece.